In The Three Boxes of Life: And How to Get Out of Them, author Richard Bolles laments that the task of “getting an education” has traditionally been assigned to our youth. Then, in our adult years, we tend to engage in educational pursuits only as a means to staying competitive in the working world. Lastly, in old age, our time is predominately devoted to leisure and only a small portion is allocated to learning.
However, Business Week reporter Ellen Hoffman recently noted that our concepts about education are changing and adults of all ages are returning to school for the shear joy of learning. She wrote:
“Experts in education and gerontology say that as baby boomers age and approach retirement, the number of retired Americans who are spending time—or planning to—on educational pursuits is growing fast. The trend is driven by such factors as increased longevity, people enjoying more years of good health, and a growing realization by many that a retirement into passivity is not only boring, but can lead to atrophy of both mind and body.”
Likewise, Dorothy Billington, author of Life is an Attitude: How to Grow Forever Better, wrote:
“With our ever-accelerating speed of change in both knowledge and technology, it is clear that we adults have a choice: We either continue to learn throughout our lives, or we allow our skills and knowledge to quickly slide into obsolescence.”
One of the strongest indicators of this commitment to life long learning is the trend of retirees choosing to relocate to college towns rather than the sun belt. Demographers are taking note and developers are responding by building a variety of retirement housing options near campuses.
But learning is not limited to the confines of classroom perimeters. A bevy of organizations have been created to cater to the eclectic interests and sense of adventure of today’s over 50 crowd. For example, Elderhostel (www.elderhostel.org) offers 7000 learning opportunities in the U.S. and Canada and in 90 countries abroad. “Unlike tour companies, Elderhostel offers in-depth and behind-the-scenes learning experiences for almost every interest and ability.”
In addition, many older adults are learning by doing and striving to “make a difference” as well. Cross- Cultural Solutions (www.volunteervacation.org) offers a number of such opportunities: “The purpose of worldwide volunteering is foremost to serve, and thereby, to learn first-hand about the host community and its people.”
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